Hello fans!!! I’m your host, Bobby Styles, and THIS is Wrestling…Time…Machine!!! This is your go-to guide through the low-definition war zone that is the Attitude Era of Professional Wrestling.
Let us begin by walking down memory lane to the WCW side of town. The WCW roster was gradually having it’s ranks depleted as superstar after superstar jumped “ship” to The New World Order. Superstars like Marcus “Now a Male Escort” Bagwell, Michael Wallstreet, Scott Norton and Big Bubba Rogers would all flock to the lucrative NWO contracts that the newly crowned head of NWO Talent Requisition, Eric Bischoff would offer. Bubba Rogers would be held accountable by his former Dungeon of Doom teammates however, and would be scheduled to face Konnan the night after Starrcade on WCW Monday Nitro in a Strap Match, but his place would be taken by fellow NWO Member, Michael Wallstreet. The match would feature a finish that was identical to the finish used in the Caribbean Strap Match between the WWF’s Then-“Ringmaster” Steve Austin and Savio Vega from In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, from May of 1996. Questions would continue to mount over the loyalties of Sting. Glacier would also return to WCW television, undefeated and with a victory over Disco Inferno. The Glacier gimmick had real potential to be on a higher level, but the wrestler portraying Glacier…there was just something “off” about it. If a move like his “Cryonic Kick” had been sold as a truly devastating move, and not just a lackluster superkick, Glacier could have been remembered as one of the WCW greats, but instead will go down as one of the hundreds of missed opportunities in WCW. The matches were a little slower paced, perhaps due to the Martial Arts nature of the character, but his offense seemed to lack impact, although that may have been partially on the fault of his opponents and their ability to sell various maneuvers. “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko would be toyed with by Sonny Onoo and his client, Ultimo Dragon, and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named continued to send home movies to “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan.
A prominent uneasiness would build among the members of The Four Horsemen, as Benoit and Woman would continue to be conveniently absent when needed, as newcomer and confusing-bridal-lingerie enthusiast Jeff Jarrett would try to wedge his way into the team. This would culminate in a victory over Benoit at Starrcade, but ultimately Jarrett was still denied a place in The Four Horsemen the following night on WCW Monday Nitro. Starrcade 1996 would feature a host of good matches, the most surprising of which was the crowning of the first WCW Women’s Champion in Akira Hokuto in a match against Madusa. This was supposed to be the culmination of a tournament to decide the new champion,
although from November through December, I can count on one hand the number of matches that took place in said tournament on the promotion’s flagship show, and I can count on zero fingers the number of times this tournament was mentioned.
Though the WCW Women’s Championship wasn’t given the time of day on WCW Monday Nitro, one tournament was, a tournament to decide the vacated WCW United States Championship, seeing Eddie Guerrero crowned as the new champion. December would also see Lex Luger continue to feud with The Giant, and
at Starrcade 1996, the match-up between the two would finally cement the question as to where referee Nick Patrick had sided. Now do you remember the last column I wrote, wherein I discussed The Giant’s win at WCW World War 3? Well, this was all supposedly done to build tension between The Giant and Hollywood Hogan. The Giant had only been a member of The NWO since the end of August of 1996, and the NWO had only existed as a group one month prior. While sure, The Giant had joined the group, and the group had proved to be a force to be reckoned with in WCW, The Giant and Hollywood Hogan had few to no interactions between them to build any sense of a bond beyond “We’re in the same group, together, brother!”. By the end of Starrcade 1996, Hogan and the group would shoulder the responsibility of dropping the ball on The Giant, the following night on Nitro would see The Giant turn on his NWO compatriots and Hollywood Hogan would order a gang-style beat-down of the big man, all this lacked any feeling of impact, or drama, due to there being little to no bond between these on-again, off-again rivals. Speaking of Hollywood Hogan, Hogan would go on to face
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper in a singles match at Starrcade 1996, in a non-title match-up. This was a strange thing, why? Because Starrcade was the culmination of the WCW calendar year, much in the same way that WrestleMania is for the WWE, so for one company that’s trying to dominate and wipe out the then-WWF, why would they on their biggest show of shows feature a Main Event Match, between their top titleholder and a challenger, a match that was a decade or so in the making…and not have the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on the line? This likely had to do with Hogan’s patented Kung-Fu Grip on creative control. Starrcade, when compared to WrestleMania is a no-contest. WCW simply wasn’t willing to put the money into the same level of extravagance and pageantry that the WWF was willing to, and if as a company, you’re not going to spend that money into giving the event a larger-than-life feel through props, entrances, performances by musicians, etc., then the edge you need to give your event has to be spent in the level of writing and booking, and with Hogan (and others) granted creative control, that simply wasn’t going to happen.
So when we last left The WWF, at the end of November 1996, The Undertaker was battling the various monsters that Paul Bearer was digging up, some good, and some bad. This would see The Undertaker battle the artist formerly known as Terry Gordy, in what would be billed as an “Armageddon Rules” match. This was essentially just a No-Disqualification Match. This was one of those times where The WWF was trying to keep up with the Hardcore movement that was swelling in the wrestling fandom, while still maintaining an aspect of larger-than-life pageantry. While Undertaker and Gordy would battle all over and even outside the arena, and if anyone could hang with Undertaker in a match, it would be the former “Bam Bam”, but overall the match felt lackluster. Mankind at least had some sort of troubling past, but The Executioner lacked any sort of plot-important reason to battle The Deadman beyond being just not that into Golf for something to do during the weekends. While Mankind and Bearer could cut interesting promos on their own, what made this battle so bland was the lack of exposition and motivation from Terry Gordy. The Executioner simply had no build. He appeared, was soundly beaten, and disappeared just as quickly with all the excitement and mystery of a hack magician failing to perform at a nine year old’s birthday party. He was just brought in because Paul Bearer knew a lot of mountainous men who were just bad at being Halloween enthusiasts.
December of 1996 would see tensions continue to rise on the front line of the World Wrestling Federations tag team division, with Bret and Bart Gunn coming to blows. Over the past several months, The Gunns had gone from WWF Tag Team Championships working with
the managerial services of Sunny to having no gold and no girl. The tension would boil over in the match between the two (Kayfabe) brothers, as Bart would nearly paralyze Billy. This would all be occurring while Owen Hart & The British Bulldog would continue their reigns as WWF Tag Team Championships against new challengers such as call-ups from ECW, Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon, who while these new challengers were technically proficient, were lacking in the charisma department. A good way to have booked this feud, would have been with Hart and The Bulldog taking Clarence Mason up on his managerial services, and having former manager Jim Cornette bring in Furnas and LaFon for revenge against his former clients for spurning him.
The World Wrestling Federation’s mid-card would heat up as well, with the young blue-blood from Connecticut, Hunter Hearst Helmsley would continue to barely hang onto the WWF Intercontinental Championship facing challenges from “Wild Man” Marc Mero and Goldust would return to attempt to capture Hunter’s title, attacking both the former Terra Ryzing, and the former Johnny B. Badd. This would feature a strange low point for the then-WWF, as Jerry “The King” Lawler would bring himself to ask Goldust if was queer on the December 18th, 1996 edition of WWF Monday Night Raw. This would prove to be indicative of an issue that the WWE still has difficulty tackling today, how to creatively broach subjects like sexuality, or even race with a modicum of sensitivity that doesn’t reduce those issues to cheap shock value, laughs, etc.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin had just barely fallen short in trying to beat Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and Sycho Sid had emerged as a victorious challenger, conquering “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. The fate of the Hart Family would be in jeopardy as Bret Hart would be named the new Number 1 Contender for Sid’s WWF Championship. Austin would continue to stalk Hart, with various levels of interference and seemingly lack of any form of communication between Bret, Owen Hart and the British Bulldog. Bret had his hands full trying to contend against Sid, the various hurdles in the forms of repeated aggression presented by Austin, and the uneasy pressure growing between “The Hitman” and “The Heartbreak Kid”. That pressure would continue to grow as Michaels would arguably and inadvertently cost Bret Hart his chance at the WWF Championship against Sycho Sid at WWF In Your House 12: It’s Time.
Last, we bring ourselves to Extreme Championship Wrestling. During December of 1996, ECW would see the return of a now Sunny-less Chris Candido. Candido would turn on his former friend, and a star rising through the ranks Louie Spicolli, aligning himself with “Prime Time” Brian Lee and more importantly “The Franchise” Shane Douglas. Douglas would continue to make more enemies than friends on the ECW roster. The vortex of Douglas’ feud with The Pitbulls, specifically Pitbull #2, would suck in the longtime enemy of Brian Lee, Tommy Dreamer Beulah McGillicutty. Douglas and Dreamer would collide in a spectacular encounter at Holiday Hell 1996 in a Mixed Tag Team Match involving their respective beaus. This match would go on to solidify that the women of Extreme Championship Wrestling
were some of the toughest women on the face of the planet. While the N.W.O. was taking over WCW, ECW would come to know it’s own troublesome faction in the Blue World Order, as Raven’s lackeys-Nova, The Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards would come together after weeks of other parodies (including BlueDust) to pester the likes of Taz, Santa Clause and anyone else who found themselves in their path. The B.W.O. would not just parody the N.W.O.’s guerrilla gang tactics in trying to take over ECW television, but would go as far as to parody specific N.W.O. elements, such as the N.W.O. T-Shirt commercials. This would continue as Raven would to vie to regain the ECW Championship from his foe, The Sandman. Raven would capture the belt to secure his second reign as ECW Championship at Holiday Hell in a brutal and downright murder-rific Barbed Wire Rope Match. The bad blood between Sabu and Taz would continue to boil over as Taz would challenge Sabu to a match at ECW’s first Pay-Per-View Event of 1997. These two animals would stop at nothing, including self-destruction to stop one another once and for all. Taz’s path of rage would continue as he would again brutalize Sabu’s new partner, Rob Van Dam at Holiday Hell to close out 1996.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, the close of December 1996. In conclusion, December of 1996 was the culmination of several large feuds, and the evolution of several more. How will all this play out in January of 1997, find out on the next thrilling episode of The Wrestling Time Machine!!!